Review by Hannah Strong @thethirdhan

Directed by

Nicholas Stoller


Billy Eichner Luke Macfarlane


The trailer doesn't give much away.


A rom-com without the rom.

In Retrospect.

Billy Eichner and Nicholas Stoller's gay rom-com isn't as groundbreaking or as romantic as it likes to think it is.

Prognosticators have been telling of the rom-com’s imminent demise for some 30 years now, murmuring sagely that the genre just isn’t what it used to be, and studios don’t seem to have any interest in funding the sort of light-hearted romps between beautiful people that once lit up the box office. There’s been plenty of squabbling about whether the genre is dead or alive, and what influence changing audience appetites and the advent of streaming might have had on its fortunes – meanwhile Hollywood finds a new way every couple of years to apparently reinvent the wheel.

Much was made during the US press tour for Nicholas Stoller’s Bros about the fact it was “the first gay romantic comedy from a major studio featuring an entirely LGBTQ principal cast”, with lead Billy Eichner “the first openly gay man to write and star in a major studio film.” Touted as a landmark for representation on screen, it wasn’t actually all that clear what Bros had to offer in terms of plot or characters, as though its existence alone was enough to make people flock to the cinema.

A thoroughly modern premise sees Eichner play a character who seems at least a little based on himself – Bobby Leiber is a podcaster and newly-hired curator for the LGBTQ+ History Museum, who claims to be happy with his singledom and rolls his eyes at his friends who are coupled up or enjoying playing the field. Bobby meets “hot but boring” Aaron (Luke Macfarlane) at a nightclub, and while they flirt, he assumes Aaron isn’t interested in him, and from there Bros falls into a familiar will-they-won’t-they rhythm as Bobby navigates difficulties in his new job alongside the differences between him and Aaron which apparently make them ill-suited for one another.

For all Bros’ claims about being a groundbreaking film, its plot leaves a lot to be desired in that department, relying on the most basic rom-com tropes and tired stereotyping around queer identity to cobble together a fairly flat storyline. The characters aren’t much better, and while Macfarlane does his best as a gay man attempting to reconcile his traditional masculinity with his sexuality, it feels like Aaron should have been the lead over the judgemental and snide Bobby, whose persistent unpleasantness makes him a difficult protagonist to invest in, let alone root for.

For all its sneering at Schitt’s Creek – a show co-created by a queer man – Bros even steals a bit from it, when Bobby serenades Aaron with a (very corny) original song. But while the achingly sincere and proudly twee Schitt’s Creek earned its moments of emotional poignancy, Bros attempts to shoehorn sincerity into a script that can’t help sticking the knife into other queer people at every turn.

Claims of inclusivity ring hollow when a film resorts to tired stereotyping, and every supporting character in Bros seems like a parody created by an AI bot that’s been fed on nothing but Twitter discourse and TikTok parody videos. It’s a film lacking originality, but also heart – it’s hard to root for a couple when you really don’t care if they end up together or not. There are a couple of funny lines in the script, but running at just under two hours, Bros drags on, lacking the effervescence that has cemented many a rom-com’s in pop culture history.

When Bros’ box subsequent box office returns were disappointing, the team behind the film lambasted audiences on social media, claiming straight ambivalence was tanking the film. It would be easier to see this as a possible explanation if Bros was a better film – instead its holier-than-thou script and the overall lack of romance in a romantic comedy are more likely reasons Bros didn’t set the US box office on fire. Queer love stories are every bit as individual as heterosexual ones, and we deserve to see them on screen, but can certainly aim a little higher than this smug, unsatisfying mismatch of ideas.

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Published 28 Oct 2022

Tags: Billy Eichner Bros Nicholas Stoller


The trailer doesn't give much away.


A rom-com without the rom.

In Retrospect.

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